Baystate Franklin Medical Center received a $1 million federal grant to expand its EMPOWER program.

Women ages 18 or older, who are pregnant, postpartum or parenting a child less than three-years-old “are going to be eligible for the program if they have a history of opioid use disorder or a history of overdose,” said Linda Jablonski, assistant nurse manager at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

The EMPOWER program currently serves about 30 women and families in Franklin County each year.

Jablonski said, “Women who have opioid use during pregnancy and postpartum suffer from fear and stigma. Many of them also have coexisting mental health disorders. It’s very difficult for them to access services and sometimes that gets in the way of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy outcome.”

Jablonski told 22News, the original program did not cover the postpartum period, when mothers can be vulnerable to depression and relapse.

EMPOWER, started in 2015, will now offer additional support to moms with current or past opioid use, thanks to Moms Do Care project funding.

Together with the Center for Human Development, the program will now stress the importance of peer to peer support.

“Having somebody who is on your side with lived experience who has gotten to the other side of struggling with addiction, I think it really gives people hope and it helps to keep them motivated and to keep them on track,” said Center for Human Development’s Clinic Director Shannon Hicks.

“And what we’re hoping to do through this grant is to lead them through those parenting skills and help them really gain the confidence in that and let them know that we’re here to help,” added Dr. Marcia Vanvleet, lead pediatrician of MDC EMPOWER.

They’re hoping to start admitting clients into the program next month.